Baykeeper Update

Baykeeper Files Court Appeal to Stop Excessive Sand Mining in the Bay

On July 8, Baykeeper filed an appeal in our lawsuit to stop excessive sand mining in San Francisco Bay. For years, private companies have been permitted to mine too much sand from the Bay, contributing to erosion at Ocean Beach and harming important Bay species like Dungeness crab. Yet in 2012, the California agency that oversees sand mining, the State Lands Commission, approved a large increase in Bay sand mining. Baykeeper then filed suit to stop the increase.

In April this year, a California state court ruled against Baykeeper, and gave a green light to a large increase in Bay sand mining. The ruling was made despite scientific research showing that extracting more sand from the Bay would exacerbate the already-serious erosion problem at Ocean Beach.

“The sand on the floor of San Francisco Bay is a resource that belongs to the public, and the state is charged with ensuring it’s used properly on our behalf. Allowing private companies to extract sand in an unsustainable way isn’t an appropriate use of this public resource,” said Baykeeper Staff Scientist Ian Wren. “Plus, excessive sand mining damages two of our region’s natural treasures, the Bay and Ocean Beach, which also belong to the public.”  

Beaches outside the Golden Gate like Ocean Beach are naturally replenished by sand that washes out of the Bay over time. Ocean Beach is eroding in part because sand mining depletes the amount of sand that washes out the Golden Gate from upstream sources in the Delta and Sierra Nevada.

Further erosion from increased sand mining could threaten the Great Highway, cause a major city sewer line to rupture, and wash away sensitive habitat for shorebirds.

Excessive sand mining not only contributes to erosion of coastal beach habitat, but also disrupts the Bay’s ecosystem by impacting bottom-dwelling invertebrates and shellfish. A primary mining area is between the San Francisco waterfront and Angel Island, which is used by juvenile Dungeness crab, sturgeon, and other important Bay species. Another is Suisun Bay, a critical habitat for sturgeon, ducks, and many other species of fish and water birds.

Baykeeper and the public have another opportunity to prevent the environmental damage and loss of a public resource caused by excessive sand mining in the Bay. In addition to needing a lease from the State Lands Commission, sand mining companies also need a permit from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). We are advocating for the BCDC to base its decision on the large body of scientific evidence showing the harm from excessive sand mining in the Bay, and set limits that protect both Ocean Beach and the Bay.